Monthly Archives: January 2017

Thomas De Quincey and Confessions of an English Opium-Eater: Opium as Medicine and Beyond

Jared Griffin Pennsauken, New Jersey, United States   If a man “whose talk is of oxen,” should become an Opium-eater, the probability is, that (if he is not too dull to dream at all)—he will dream about oxen: whereas, in the case before him, the reader will find that the Opium-eater boasteth himself to be […]

Mysterious muse

Juliet Hubbell Littleton, Colorado, United States     L’inconnue de la Seine Few muses are both beautiful and dead, but one such modern muse is L’inconnue de la Seine, a young woman whose drowned corpse so inspired the Parisian morgue personnel who received her body in 1902 that a death mask or masque mortuaire was […]

Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and the five stages of grief

Katharine Lawrence Florida, United States   Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair. “Vermiform appendix! Kidney!” he said to himself. “It’s not a question of appendix or kidney, but of life and . . . death. Yes, life was there and now it is going, going and I cannot […]

Peter Mark Roget, MD, FRS of the Thesaurus

Peter Mark Roget, 1834 Print from Medical Portrait Gallery by Thomas Pettigrew His obituary as it appeared in the British Medical Journal on Sept. 25, 1869   Dr. Peter Mark Roget died on September 10th, at Malvern, in the 91st year of his age. He was the son of the Rev. John Roget, a descendant […]

On the skill of physicians

“I am not partial to physicians myself. In minor matters a proper diet is better than a doctor; in major matters they do not seem to have much skill. No doctor has yet learnt to cure a broken neck. However, they have their place, like others in the world. No duel should be fought without […]

On being idle and a patient

    “Many years ago, when I was a young man, I was taken very ill—I never could see myself that much was the matter with me, except that I had a beastly cold. But I suppose it was something very serious, for the doctor said that I ought to have come to him a […]

Richard Selzer: the birth of literature and medicine

Mahala Stripling Fort Worth, Texas, United States   Richard Selzer was among the first physicians to understand the power of writing and reading fiction within medicine. He helped to open up this whole territory to those of us who came after. His legacy is, on the one hand, the text—what he’s written—and, on the other […]

Dear Doctor

Melanie Cheng Melbourne, Australia    Photography by Renaud Camus It was her mother’s doing. After all, it was her mother who taught her how to read. Not just in the literal sense—with Little Golden Books a good year before she started school—but in the broader sense of the word, through the sharing of musty, broken-backed […]

Mikhael Bulgakov’s “The Steel Windpipe” in A Country Doctor’s Notebook

Michael Bloor United Kingdom   Mikhael  Bulgakov Anton Chechov (1860–1904) is Russia’s most famous literary doctor, but another of Russia’s great twentieth century authors also practised medicine. Mikhael Bulgakov (1891–1940) was the banned author of The Master and Marguerita, first published twenty-six years after his death, a novel credited as a progenitor of magic realism […]

Anton Chekhov and the Sakhalin Penal Colony

Michael Bloor United Kingdom   In the nineteenth century the Czarist Government wanted to create an Arctic Australia by establishing a penal colony on Sakhalin Island, off the eastern coast of Siberia some five thousand miles from European Russia. There convicts who had served out their sentences would be obliged to stay as settlers, albeit […]